Man who duped US songwriter who co-wrote Faith Hill's Breathe pleads guilty to money laundering

SINGAPORE - An American conman who cheated a hit-making singer-songwriter of US$600,000 (S$787,920) and arranged for part of the money to be laundered in Singapore pleaded guilty to money laundering on Monday (April 9).

The case of David John Plate, 53, is believed to be the first time that Singapore authorities have nabbed an actual scammer whose ruse led to money-laundering offences being committed here.

Plate admitted in a district court to one count each of abetting his alleged accomplice, Singapore permanent resident Sandrasegaran Vasimuthu, 56, to receive US$45,000 and to transfer US$10,000 from this amount to another man. Four other similar money laundering charges will be considered during sentencing.

The court heard that in July 2014, Plate had tricked an American singer-songwriter based in Britain, Ms Mary Holladay Lamar, into believing that her US$600,000 would be loaned to a company, Globomass Limited. But instead of being repaid with interest of at least 30 per cent, Ms Lamar later found herself on the brink of bankruptcy. It is not known where the ruse took place.

The singer-songwriter, better known as Holly Lamar, 50, has co-written hits such as Breathe by popular country music singer Faith Hill.

After making off with Ms Lamar's money, Plate sent an e-mail on July 22, 2014 to one Andrew Philpott from British firm Captive Risk to say that the money would be going into the company's bank account and instructed Mr Philpott to "turn this around straight away".

Plate also gave him details of three bank accounts for him to make fund transfers. One of them belonged to Sandrasegaran's Singapore-registered company, Aglobal Management.

Captive Risk transferred US$45,000 into Aglobal's bank account three days later.

Later that day, Plate e-mailed Sandrasegaran, asking him to transfer US$10,000 of the cash to a Bank of America account belonging to one Todd Peterson.

On Monday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Chong Yonghui said: "The said e-mail also contained the bank account details of two other persons for the accomplice to transfer monies. In total, the accomplice was instructed to transfer monies to five bank accounts including that of the accused."

The other two parties were Taylor Dejongh and Siti Rohmah. Court papers did not reveal details about their identities.

DPP Chong added that even though Plate claimed to be the Aglobal's chief executive, records from the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority showed that Sandrasegaran was its sole director and shareholder.

The court also heard that Ms Lamar's remaining monies were dissipated through a Malaysian insurance company, Perisai Agency.

After failing to receive any money as had been promised, Ms Lamar flew to Singapore on June 6, 2015 and made a police report. It was not mentioned in court how she found out that a portion of her money had been transferred here.

Plate was arrested when he arrived in Singapore on a social visit pass on Feb 23 last year.

He has made no restitution and will be back in court on April 23. Sandrasegaran will be dealt with at a later date.